New Bell Schedule at Gunn, Homework, and Transparency on Legal Fees

A Gunn Bell Schedule that Puts Students First

The school board agenda for Tuesday, May 12, includes an item that is truly great news for our students at Gunn: a proposed new "block" schedule with fewer, longer classes each day; more time built into the schedule for teacher collaboration; and two periods each week dedicated to tutorial and counseling time for students. Behind this proposal is a process led by Gunn Principal Denise Herrmann that has been a model of community participation and research-guided policy development. We all owe the Creative Bell Schedule Committee thanks for their dedication and commitment. It is terrific that our Gunn students will now also enjoy the benefits of a block schedule, as our Paly students have for the last several years.

The details of the proposal can be found in the board agenda item. When I attended a community information night about the block schedule, I heard a presentation from Denise Clark Pope of Challenge Success that emphasized some of the benefits of a block schedule: fewer transitions during the day, reduced homework load as fewer classes meet each day, and longer class periods to allow for a greater variety of teaching strategies and learning activities. Taken together, this will be an effective change for reducing student stress and improving student wellbeing. It illustrates the power of looking for positive improvements that affect the day-to-day life of students in school.

Read more
Add your reaction Share

Next Steps Beyond Zero Period

Superintendent McGee's decision to eliminate academic classes in zero period at Gunn next year makes good sense. Well over a hundred local doctors, the pediatricians at PAMF, the HEARD alliance for adolescent mental health, and the American Academy of Pediatrics have all weighed in to underline the importance of school start times that build in time for students to sleep. (For more on the evidence, see my earlier blog post). If you can, come to the May 12 school board meeting to offer your support -- zero period will be discussed during an item on Gunn's proposed new block schedule. Email me for details.

But eliminating zero period is only half the job, since for many students zero period is a coping strategy for dealing with constraints coming from two main sources: homework load, and sports scheduling. On the school board, I will advocate for tackling these issues next. 

Read more
Add your reaction Share

Support Measure A for our schools

ballot_sm.jpgMy Measure A ballot came in the mail this afternoon. Tomorrow morning it's going back, marked "YES". I hope that you will do the same. Some elections present hard choices. This isn't one of them. Our schools need the revenue provided by the parcel tax, both for core expenses -- the parcel tax pays for 85 full-time school staff, including 67 teachers -- and to make possible many of the positive things that you and I have worked for, including stronger supports for social and emotional wellness and learning, addressing the achievement gap, meeting the needs of growing enrollment by opening schools, and introducing foreign language education in our elementary schools. 

Read more
Add your reaction Share

Zero Period: A Student Health and Safety Issue

At last Tuesday's school board meeting I proposed that the board put on its agenda a policy that academic classes be taught only during the regular school day, rather than in so-called "zero period" before the start of school. I made this proposal after learning that several hundred students at Gunn are taking classes, including advanced math, economics, and English, beginning at 7:20 in the morning. This practice contradicts a recent policy statement from the American Academy of Pediatrics about healthy school start times and undermines our district's own decision several years ago to push high school start times back (at Gunn, to 8:25). The Weekly had an editorial on this subject last Friday. My colleagues Heidi Emberling and Terry Godfrey indicated a desire to hear more on this issue, so it will appear as an information item on the April 21st school board agenda. In this blog post, I'll lay out the reasons why I am making this proposal, which I believe is a prudent, sensible step to improve student health and wellbeing, and increase the safety of our students.

Read more
1 reaction Share

High schools on the March 10 school board agenda

UPDATE: The high school WASC plans will be on the regular agenda for the March 10 school board meeting. This is a golden opportunity to participate in a discussion of our high schools' long range plan for improvements in teaching, counseling, the achievement gap, and social and emotional well-being. (For more details, including what WASC stands for, see my previous blog post). The WASC plans were on the February 24 consent agenda, meaning that they would not be discussed -- but I pulled the item from the consent agenda for consideration during the regular agenda. The Superintendent requested that we delay discussing the plans until March 10 to allow for some of the many administrators, teachers, parents, and students who helped create the plans to come to the meeting. I was happy to agree, as having a broad and informative conversation about the WASC plans is precisely the point of pulling them from the consent agenda.

Read more
Add your reaction Share

High schools on the school board agenda

Every six years, our high schools each complete a major planning document that guides all aspects of the school management for the next six years. The plan is a requirement of accreditation by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC). This document (the "WASC plan") governs social emotional and academic programming at the school. Our 2 high schools have been working for the past year (2 years at Paly) on their WASCs, and have involved many teachers, students, administrators, and parents at each school site. The WASC plans for Gunn and Paly will be on the school board agenda for Tuesday, February 24.

Read more
Add your reaction Share

Listen to Palo Alto Youth on March 1

Please come to a youth forum on Sunday, March 1 from 5:00 to 7:00 p.m., entitled "Listening to Youth Voices." The forum will be held at First Congregational Church in Palo Alto. Please see the flyer for details and our Facebook page for updates. The purpose of the forum is to provide middle and high school youth in our community the opportunity to speak about their lives at school and in the community, and for adults to listen to them.

The program will include student speakers, and an open mike portion where any young person can speak on any topic they wish to.

The forum is co-sponsored by a wide range of community groups and faith communities. Pat Burt, a member of the Palo Alto City Council, will make introductions, and I will make some concluding remarks. Becky Beacom of the Palo Alto Medical Foundation will serve as moderator. We hope you can come, and bring along a young person to participate.

Add your reaction Share

Social and emotional wellbeing on the school board agenda

Logo-with-ribbon-lg.jpg

We are all heartbroken from the loss of another student from Gunn High School on Saturday. My thoughts are with the family, and the students and staff at Gunn and our other schools, as I'm sure yours are as well.

On the school board's agenda for Tuesday, January 27, is the district's mental health and wellness services. This is an opportunity to discuss how we can take positive action to improve suicide prevention mental health resources for our students, and more generally how to improve student social and emotional wellbeing. From my perspective, one important area of focus for the board is ensuring that the policies and direction that the board has already adopted are fully implemented in areas such as homework and counseling.

I expect that we will begin this item around 8:00 p.m. The agenda may be shortened to allow more focus on social emotional health. I hope you will be able to attend and share your views with the board and district leadership.

This is a difficult time for our community. If anyone would like to reach out to me to share your thoughts, please feel free to email me or call me at 650-906-4340.

Finally, the ribbon pictured at right is a suicide prevention awareness ribbon. I will be wearing one at board meetings from now on, and I invite others to do the same.

Add your reaction Share

Thoughts on one month in office

I plan to use this blog as one way to communicate with the community about important issues in PAUSD. I hope that you will find it useful, and most importantly that you will share with me your feedback at kdauber@pausd.org. I will do a better job the more I hear from you about your experiences, concerns, and insights. Help me to reach our collective goal of putting students first in all of our work.

My first month in office has been marked by a resurgence of community concern about stress in our schools, a discussion of differences in bullying rates in our middle schools, the first meetings of the superintendent's task force on minority achievement, and a board discussion I initiated about whether to continue spending time and money pursuing appeals in closed civil rights cases.

Read more
Add your reaction Share

← Previous  1  2  3

Visit Ken on Facebook and LinkedIn.
Contact: kenneth.dauber@gmail.com or 650-906-4340

Download literature